Southeast Regional Reports

Regional Picks: Shrubs for Shade – South

Fine Gardening - Issue 188

Shade in the garden might seem like a limitation, but the seasoned gardener knows this is just an opportunity to utilize plants that would wilt in a sunny spot.

As Andrew Bunting says in his article on shrubs for shade, there are plenty of options for bringing interest to your shade garden: “If you take a dim view of the shady spots in your garden, it may be because you haven’t found the right plants to make those areas shine. A few well-chosen shrubs can transform a shadowy area into a showcase, and there are more choices available than you might imagine.”

Find four picks for the South below, and find even more shrubs for shade in Andrew’s article, 9 Great Shrubs for Shade.


1. Fall-Blooming Camellia

Fall-Blooming Camellia

Name: Camellia sasanqua

Zones: 7–9

Size: 4 to 10 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Morning sun to full shade; moist, organic, well-drained soil

Native range: Japan

Fall-blooming camellias are a spectacular way to add more color to the autumn shade garden. Blooms appear from early fall to early winter set amid lustrous, dark evergreen leaves that highlight the white, pink, or red flowers. With smaller leaves and overall size than spring-blooming camellias (Camellia japonica, Zones 7–9), and with several dwarf varieties available, these abundant bloomers are better adapted for use in smaller gardens and foundation plantings.


2. Japanese Plum Yew

Japanese Plum Yew
Photo: Richard Bloom

Name: Cephalotaxus harringtonia cvs.

Zones: 6–9

Size: 2 to 10 feet tall and wide; may slowly reach 20 to 30 feet

Conditions: Partial to full shade; medium to low moisture; well-drained soil

Native range: Japan, China, Korea

This lovely evergreen tolerates deep shade, hot weather, and deer. Its short, dark green needles are arranged in a V-pattern along erect stems, giving it a fernlike appearance that combines well with other plants. There are cultivars to suit a variety of needs: ‘Duke Gardens’ has a spreading, mounded habit, ‘Fastigiata’ (pictured) is columnar, ‘Korean Gold’ is columnar with gold tips, and ‘Prostrata’ has a low, spreading habit.


3. Paperbush

Photo: Janet M. Jemmont

Name: Edgeworthia chrysantha

Zones: 7–10

Size: 8 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Partial shade; medium to low moisture; well-drained soil

Native range: China

For terrific multiseason interest, paperbush is a must-have for the Southern garden. This deciduous shrub puts on a winter show, with large, silvery white flower buds capping attractive brown branches (pictured). The buds burst open in late winter to reveal wonderfully fragrant, umbrella-shape flower heads, each one holding around forty tubular yellow flowers that resemble tiny paper scrolls. Attractive, large, medium green leaves appear once the blooms have faded.


4. ‘Wheeler’s Variety’ Butcher’s Broom

Wheelers Variety Butchers Broom
Photo: courtesy of Plant Delights Nursery Inc.

Name: Ruscus aculeatus ‘Wheeler’s Variety’

Zones: 7–9

Size: 3 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; average to dry, well-drained soil

Native range: Europe and western Asia

If you need a tough evergreen shrub for dry shade and heavy root competition, this is the plant for you. Historically used in Southern gardens as a substitute for boxwood (Buxus spp. and cvs., Zones 5–9), this unique evergreen produces dense clumps of upright stems with dark green “foliage” (actually modified stems) that can be used in fl oral arrangements. ‘Wheeler’s Variety’ is self-fertile, producing bright red berries from early fall through winter without needing a pollinator.

Valerie Jones Hinesley is a landscape architect and second-generation owner of Piccadilly Farm Nursery and Gardens in Bishop, Georgia.

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